The Moment Jelly Roll Decided to Change His Life for Good

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Jelly Roll

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Jelly Roll is a singer, rapper, and songwriter. Look for his Hulu documentary, "Jelly Roll: Save Me," on May 30, and his new album, "Whitsitt Chapel," on June 2. www.jellyroll615.com

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I spent most of my, from 14 to 25 in jail. Yeah, I do know that. I spent like a ton of time. At 16 I was charged as an adult for a charge. And... What did you do? It was the first time I've ever actually talked about the charge. I just say it was a heinous crime, admittedly. It was horrible. We robbed a couple of guys for some weed. But they called the police because we took some money and some stuff. It was an armed robbery. We went in there with a gun. I regret it every day of my life, Joe. You know, I mean, I was a kid. Now I'm not making an excuse, but I would like to paint the picture that I literally did not have pubic hairs. I'm a 15-year-old kid when it happens, you know? And I still feel horrible about it. But because the state of Tennessee has a zero forgiveness policy for violent offenders, I've carried that unexpungable felony for 20-something years. It prohibits me from getting houses. It's prohibitive. It's put me in... I mean, life insurance, homeowner insurance is higher if I can get it at all. I can't get life insurance at all just because they have a... Most of them won't give you a decent policy as a felon. Dude, I can't volunteer at the YMCA. The Young Men's a Christian Academy. Won't let me... You know, just... Me and my wife just got turned down for a house. I'm in a place in life where I go to buy my dream home, guard gate, a community golf course. Man, I'm crying, Joe. They accept my offer. I'm like, this ain't gonna be real. They turn me around and say, no, the golf course won't let a felon be a part of the community. You know, and I'm a fucking... Dude, I'm a 15, 16 year... Dude, the idea that there's just this one definition, this one solid yes or no, this is a thing. You have the mark on you. Right. And it's not an individual with individual circumstances. That's so ridiculous. And that's not what a human being is supposed to be about. We're not supposed to be about that. We're supposed to be about understanding situations. Right. And when there's a child that does something really fucking stupid and knows it forever, you don't think you could have done that? This is what I would tell the people. If you were in that same community, you were with those same influences, this was the reality that you were born into. You don't think you could have gone with those other kids that were gonna rob someone with a gun? You could have. Don't lie to yourself. You could have. They're not unsavable human beings. Right. That's why I focus all of my philanthropic efforts with the juvenile at home. You know, we suck a quarter million dollars into there from my last hometown show. I sold out my arena. Big craziest night ever. You know, fucking the hometown arena. You know how big that shit is. When you're in the hometown, it just hits different. Yeah. You know what I'm saying? When you're like, oh no, this is home. You know what I'm saying? Like, oh, they like being home. Yeah. For me, it's Boston. Yeah. When you play the garden, right? Yeah. God, crazy, dude. I just couldn't imagine the emotions of just like, dude, I fucking ate shit at this comedy club here. I fucking, fucking talk, fucking kickboxing and shit out here for fucking 20 bucks a session. And here I am standing in the fucking garden. I was sitting, dude, I was like, I was sitting two blocks away from the juvenile I was in, George. Wow. I mean, Joe. And I'm sitting there, Joe, and I went and talked to the kids before. I went and met them all, spent Thanksgiving with them before the show, fed them, and sat down with them and said, look, y'all. I know a couple of y'all been here for a year or two, just like I was. I'm building a studio in here, and I'm building trade programs, and I got y'alls back. Man, we helped out with a lot of lawyers. We put it, we worked with the state. Now they're building a new juvenile that we're going to sink millions of dollars into and have an aftercare program. I'm going to do so much for at-risk youth in Nashville because my whole life changed in that it was the most ... I look back at it, and I talk about it so much that sometimes I desensitize myself for how traumatic it really was. I spent my 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th birthday incarcerated. Straight. Most kids, my daughter will inevitably, by the grace of God, get a car on her 16th birthday. The dream shit, with the ribbons and shit. It's going to be a big moment. It's going to be fucking crazy. They didn't even give me an extra piece of cake for dinner. You know what I mean? I didn't have a guard tell me happy 15th or 16th birthday. You know what I mean? You don't get a family visit. I missed high school completely. I think I was in high school for ... I think we actually pulled the records six weeks. You know what I mean? The only thing that turned that shit around for me was Bailey. I was in the revolving door of the judicial system, in and out. I knew I'd got a woman pregnant. I'm back in jail. She's pregnant. She hates me. We're not talking. I'm a bad human. She's right. I was a horrible human. I was sitting in there and that guard knocks on my door on May 22, 2008. D Ford. It's count time. I say, what's up? He goes, you had a kid today. He walked away. Dude, it just ... I still get emotional. I don't know what kind of ... It was like a Damascus Road experience in the Bible. I immediately, Joe, was like, I've got to do something to change. I've got to quit this shit. I got to figure it out. Now, I'm in the violent offender gang unit of this jail. There's a sign on the door that you can sign up for an education unit, right? Nobody ever signed up for it because it's like checking in. You know what I mean? In jail, it would be like ... Your boy told the jail stories that was in here with Bobby, you understand the lingo. It's like they put you on the door. You sign up for the sheet of paper so they get you out of the unit. Or if you were scared, you would sign up to get out of the unit. I've been in there for fucking a year. I mean, fucking seven, eight months, six months, seven months, playing poker every day, chilling. And immediately, Joe went and signed up for that education unit and got my GED. I didn't know what I was going to do, but I knew that I was dead set on not selling drugs ever again. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit.The Jerogan Experience. I spent most of my, from 14 to 25 in jail. Yeah, I do know that. I spent like a ton of time. At 16 I was charged as an adult for a charge. And... What did you do? It was the first time I've ever actually talked about the charge. I just say it was a heinous crime, admittedly. It was horrible. We robbed a couple of guys for some weed. But they called the police because we took some money and some stuff. It was an armed robbery. We went in there with a gun. I regret it every day of my life, Joe. You know, I mean, I was a kid. Now I'm not making an excuse, but I would like to paint the picture that I literally did not have pubic hairs. I'm a 15-year-old kid when it happens, you know? And I still feel horrible about it. But because the state of Tennessee has a zero forgiveness policy for violent offenders, I've carried that unexpungable felony for 20-something years. It prohibits me from getting houses. It's prohibitive. It's put me in... I mean, life insurance, homeowner insurance is higher if I can get it at all. I can't get life insurance at all just because they have a... Most of them won't give you a decent policy as a felon. Dude, I can't volunteer at the YMCA. The Young Men's a Christian Academy. Won't let me... You know, just... Me and my wife just got turned down for a house. I'm in a place in life where I go to buy my dream home, guard gate, a community golf course. Man, I'm crying, Joe. They accept my offer. I'm like, this ain't gonna be real. They turn me around and say, no, the golf course won't let a felon be a part of the community. You know, and I'm a fucking... Dude, I'm a 15, 16 year... Dude, the idea that there's just this one definition, this one solid yes or no, this is a thing. You have the mark on you. Right. And it's not an individual with individual circumstances. That's so ridiculous. And that's not what a human being is supposed to be about. We're not supposed to be about that. We're supposed to be about understanding situations. Right. And when there's a child that does something really fucking stupid and knows it forever, you don't think you could have done that? This is what I would tell the people. If you were in that same community, you were with those same influences, this was the reality that you were born into. You don't think you could have gone with those other kids that were gonna rob someone with a gun? You could have. Don't lie to yourself. You could have. They're not unsavable human beings. Right. That's why I focus all of my philanthropic efforts with the juvenile at home. You know, we suck a quarter million dollars into there from my last hometown show. I sold out my arena. Big craziest night ever. You know, fucking the hometown arena. You know how big that shit is. When you're in the hometown, it just hits different. Yeah. You know what I'm saying? When you're like, oh no, this is home. You know what I'm saying? Like, oh, they like being home. Yeah. For me, it's Boston. Yeah. When you play the garden, right? Yeah. God, crazy, dude. I just couldn't imagine the emotions of just like, dude, I fucking ate shit at this comedy club here. I fucking, fucking talk, fucking kickboxing and shit out here for fucking 20 bucks a session. And here I am standing in the fucking garden. I was sitting, dude, I was like, I was sitting two blocks away from the juvenile I was in, George. Wow. I mean, Joe. And I'm sitting there, Joe, and I went and talked to the kids before. I went and met them all, spent Thanksgiving with them before the show, fed them, and sat down with them and said, look, y'all. I know a couple of y'all been here for a year or two, just like I was. I'm building a studio in here, and I'm building trade programs, and I got y'alls back. Man, we helped out with a lot of lawyers. We put it, we worked with the state. Now they're building a new juvenile that we're going to sink millions of dollars into and have an aftercare program. I'm going to do so much for at-risk youth in Nashville because my whole life changed in that it was the most ... I look back at it, and I talk about it so much that sometimes I desensitize myself for how traumatic it really was. I spent my 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th birthday incarcerated. Straight. Most kids, my daughter will inevitably, by the grace of God, get a car on her 16th birthday. The dream shit, with the ribbons and shit. It's going to be a big moment. It's going to be fucking crazy. They didn't even give me an extra piece of cake for dinner. You know what I mean? I didn't have a guard tell me happy 15th or 16th birthday. You know what I mean? You don't get a family visit. I missed high school completely. I think I was in high school for ... I think we actually pulled the records six weeks. You know what I mean? The only thing that turned that shit around for me was Bailey. I was in the revolving door of the judicial system, in and out. I knew I'd got a woman pregnant. I'm back in jail. She's pregnant. She hates me. We're not talking. I'm a bad human. She's right. I was a horrible human. I was sitting in there and that guard knocks on my door on May 22, 2008. D Ford. It's count time. I say, what's up? He goes, you had a kid today. He walked away. Dude, it just ... I still get emotional. I don't know what kind of ... It was like a Damascus Road experience in the Bible. I immediately, Joe, was like, I've got to do something to change. I've got to quit this shit. I got to figure it out. Now, I'm in the violent offender gang unit of this jail. There's a sign on the door that you can sign up for an education unit, right? Nobody ever signed up for it because it's like checking in. You know what I mean? In jail, it would be like ... Your boy told the jail stories that was in here with Bobby, you understand the lingo. It's like they put you on the door. You sign up for the sheet of paper so they get you out of the unit. Or if you were scared, you would sign up to get out of the unit. I've been in there for fucking a year. I mean, fucking seven, eight months, six months, seven months, playing poker every day, chilling. And immediately, Joe went and signed up for that education unit and got my GED. I didn't know what I was going to do, but I knew that I was dead set on not selling drugs ever again. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit. I'm going to get out of the unit.